Heard on Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson

2020 Election Conspiracy Theories Echo Centuries-Old Resistance to Black Voting

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Image credit: Shiraz Ahmed / WDET

The Atlantic’s Vann R. Newkirk II talks about the struggles Black Americans endured on the path to the passage of Voting Rights Act.

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The Atlantic has a new project called ‘Inheritance’, a multi-part initiative exploring the legacy and experiences of Black Americans that history has largely erased. Many talented writers are contributing to the series. 

This idea that Black voting is inherently fraudulent that it is inherently illegitimate, that it opened up the flood gates for dead folks voting, that you’re going to erase the orderly way that things are done, it’s been around for centuries”  — Vann Newkirk II, The Atlantic

Vann R Newkirk II is one of those contributing writers. He writes about how the eventual passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but chronicles the difficult setbacks that African Americans faced before the bill was passed.


Listen: Atlantic Senior Editor talks about voting rights 


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Vann R Newkirk II is senior editor at The Atlantic and the host of the podcast Floodlines. His recent piece for The Atlantic is titled, “American Democracy Is Only 55 Years Old—And Hanging by a Thread,” and is part of the publication’s “Inheritance” series.

Newkirk remembers how he felt the first time he voted. ”The fact that I was able to go out and do it with a community, that I was able to talk with (my mother) about it…that was an incredible moment in history,” he says.

He says some of the old ways of resisting Black voting still exist today. ”This idea that Black voting is inherently fraudulent that it is inherently illegitimate, that it opened up the flood gates for dead folks voting, that you’re going to erase the orderly way that things are done, it’s been around for centuries,” he says. 

He also says it’s important to realize that our current ideas of democracy have not been around for as long as we might think. ”Democracy, as I would name it, was only 23 (years old) when I was born,” he says, referring to the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. ”When you do that kind of reframing, you realize that it’s not only new, it’s also not as durable as we like to imagine,” says Newkirk.

Web story by Allise Hurd.

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